Two cents blog

Rolling with the robots at SXSW

by BCM Group on 17 March 2016

Beyond the sessions and panels to see at SXSW, some of the world’s biggest brands joined the party with pop-up installations all around the city. We checked out as many as we could squeeze in, and here’s one of my highlights.

The IBM Cognitive Lounge has to have been one of my favourite SXSW pop-up experiences. Upon entering the Lounge, they take some top level information from you, give you a unique wristband embedded with a chip in it, and then you’re off.

One of the prevalent pieces of software that IBM was showing off was Watson. According to IBM, Watson ‘Lets us do things we’ve never done before. Overcome obstacles that used to stop us. Spot diseases before patients display symptoms. Predict trends before they’re trending. Answer questions before they’re even asked.’  This software is pretty incredible and the ways in which it could benefit healthcare, in particular, is astonishing.

Of course, because it’s SXSW, IBM put Watson to the test in other interesting ways such as recipe creation. According to IBM’s research, even the best chefs can find it hard to think outside the box and be limited to the taste and flavours they know and personal experience when it comes to creating new recipes. So, ‘Chef’ Watson helps pull information based on scientific data and flavour profile studying to come up with new and interesting food combinations. Chef Watson serving up tacos – one created by the executive chef of a renowned Austin restaurant, the other created by Chef Watson. The conclusion? In my opinion Chef Watson lost this one, with its taco of black olives, chili and pulled bison meat. However, Chef Watson did make me a very tasty, personalised gin cocktail that was based on the personal information I gave upon entering the Lounge.

You can have a go at some cognitive cooking with Chef Watson here


I also got to meet the adorable Pepper who is a robot powered by Watson. Pepper is already being used in the consumer banking sector in Japan. Pepper’s aim is to understand the world in the way that humans do, through senses, learning and experience all pulled from data and human interaction. Due to Pepper’s empathetic and friendly design, IBM see Pepper being used in medicine as a nursing aid and as an in-class teaching assistant in the real world. She also takes a pretty good selfie!


IBM’s sentiment of the whole event was about creating a ‘smarter planet’ and how we are facing an explosion of data in our world, but more often than not industries don’t know what to do with it. They plan on helping us ‘Out-think the future by unleashing IBM’s cognitive technologies to understand, reason and learn.’

My take-out from the event was that there are certain things that robots can do that are going to be incredible and enhance the world around us, but I think we need to leave cooking to the humans!


Sarah Fitzpatrick is an Account Manager at BCM


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